On Dec. 19, the Madison school board is scheduled to vote on whether to approve Madison Preparatory Academy, a charter school that would target at-risk minority students.
For more than 18 months, the proposal — drawn up by the Urban League of Greater Madison as an ambitious step toward closing the district’s racial achievement gap — has polarized the community, with a broad range of critics taking aim on multiple fronts.
The proposal, at least by local standards, is a radical one, under which the Urban League would operate two largely taxpayer-funded, gender-specific secondary schools with an unprecedented level of autonomy. If approved, Madison Prep would open next fall with 120 sixth-graders and peak at 840 students in grades 6 through 12 by its seventh year.
Opponents say the Urban League’s proposal combines flawed educational models, discredited science, fuzzy budgeting and unrealistic projections of student success. While some applaud certain elements of the proposal, like longer school days and academic years, they maintain that Madison Prep won’t help enough students to justify the $17.5 million cost to the district over its first five years.